Orok language

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Native to Russia, Japan
Region Sakhalin Oblast (Russian Far East), Hokkaido
Ethnicity 300 Orok (2010 census)[1]
Native speakers
50 to 100 (2010 census)[1]
  • Southern
    • Nanai group
      • Orok
Language codes
ISO 639-3 oaa
Glottolog orok1265[2]

Orok is the Russian name for the language known by its speakers as Uilta, Ulta, or Ujlta. Similarly, the people are called Oroks or Ulta. It is a Tungusic language. The language is spoken in the Poronaysky and Nogliksky Administrative Divisions of Sakhalin Oblast, in the Russian Federation.

According to the 2002 Russian census there were 346 Oroks living in Russia, of whom 64 were competent in Orok. By the 2010 census, that number had dropped to 47. Oroks also live on the island of Hokkaido in Japan, but the number of speakers in uncertain, and certainly small.[3]

There are two dialects of Orok: northern (east Sakhalin) and southern (poronaysky). The variety of the language spoken on the island of Hokkaido belongs to the southern dialect.

Orok is used conversationally in everyday situations by the members of the older generation. It is also the language of oral folk literature. Oroks also speak Russian.

An alphabetic script, based on Cyrillic, was introduced in 2007. A primer has been published, and the language is taught in one school on the island of Sakhalin.

General information[edit]

Orok is a Tungusic language that is spoken in areas of Sakhalin, Russia and Hokkaido, Japan. Its language code is 'oaa'. Orok is also known as Ulta, Ujlta, Uilta, and Sprache der Oroken. Currently it can be classified as a moribund or critically endangered language. The 2010 census reported 47 Orok people who are able to speak Orok competently. Furthermore, in a paper by Yoshiko Yamada in 2010, it is stated that there are 10 active speakers, 16 conditionally bilingual speakers, and 24 passive speakers who can understand with the help of Russian. The article states that "It is highly probable that the number has since decreased further."[4]


The language of Orok is classified as a Tungusic language. More specifically, it is classified as a Southern Tungusic language and Amur Tungusic language.


The Cyrillic script introduced in 2007 is:[5]

Orok alphabet 2008.svg

The letter "en with left hook" is contained in Unicode since version 7.0.



Front Central Back
Close i iː u uː
Mid ɛ ɛː, eː ə əː ʌ ʌː, ɔ ɔː
Open ɐ ɐː


Bilabial Dental Lateral Palatal Velar Uvular
Plosive voiceless p t c k (q)
voiced b d ɟ ɡ (ɢ)
Fricative voiceless s x (ʁ)
voiced β (z) ɣ
Nasal m n ɲ ŋ
Liquid r l ʎ
Approximant j

[citation needed]


The Orok language is also known as the Uilta language. While they are called the Oroks by their neighbors in the Sakhalin such as the Ainu, Nivkh, Japanese, and the Russians, these people prefer uil'ta~ul'ta. The word Uilta may come from the word ulaa which means 'domestic reindeer'. This makes sense as the main occupation of the Orok people is reindeer herding.[6]


In efforts to preserve the Orok language and educate, many researchers have come up with dictionaries and lexical documentations. In 2008, the first Uilta primer was published to set a writing system and to educated local speakers of Uilta.[6]

Geographic distribution[edit]

The Orok/Uilta people mainly are located in the north-eastern part of Sakhalin. Orok has two dialects: Northern (east Sakhalin) and Southern (poronaysky). The geographic distribution determines which dialect is spoken. Also, the few Orok speakers in Hokkaido speak the southern dialect. "The distribution of Uilta is closely connected with their half-nomadic lifestyle, which involves reindeer herding as a subsistence economy."[4]


The Southern Orok people stay in the coastal Okhotsk area in the Spring and Summer, and move to the North Sakhalin plains and East Sakhalin mountains during the Fall and Winter. The Northern Orok people live near the Terpenija Bay and the Poronai River during Spring and Summer, and migrate to the East Sakhalin mountains in the Fall and Winter.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Orok at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Orok". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  3. ^ Novikova, 1997
  4. ^ a b Yamada, Yoshiko, 2010: "A Preliminary Study of Language Contacts around Uilta in Sakhalin". Hokkaido University.
  5. ^ Уилтадаирису (in Russian; retrieved 2011-08-17) ("Archived copy". Archived from the original on 26 August 2014. Retrieved 1 December 2014. )
  6. ^ a b Tsumagari, Toshiro, 2009: "Grammatical Outline of Uilta (Revised)". Hokkaido University

Further reading[edit]

  • Majewicz, A. F. (1989). The Oroks: past and present (pp. 124–146). Palgrave Macmillan UK.
  • Pilsudski, B. (1987). Materials for the study of the Orok [Uilta] language and folklore. In, Working papers / Institute of Linguistics Uniwersytet im. Adama Mickiewicza w Poznaniu.
  • Matsumura, K. (2002). Indigenous Minority Languages of Russia: A Bibliographical Guide.
  • Kazama, Shinjiro. (2003). Basic vocabulary (A) of Tungusic languages. Endangered Languages of the Pacific Rim Publications Series, A2-037.
  • Yamada, Yoshiko. (2010). A Preliminary Study of Language Contacts around Uilta in Sakhalin. Journal of the Center for Northern Humanities 3. 59-75.
  • Tsumagari, T. (2009). Grammatical Outline of Uilta (Revised). Journal of the Graduate School of Letters, 41-21.
  • Ikegami, J. (1994). Differences between the southern and northern dialects of Uilta. Bulletin of the Hokkaido Museum of Northern Peoples, 39-38.
  • Knüppel, M. (2004). Uilta Oral Literature. A Collection of Texts Translated and Annotated. Revised and Enlarged Edition . (English). Zeitschrift für Ethnologie, 129(2), 317.
  • Smolyak, A. B., & Anderson, G. S. (1996). Orok. Macmillan Reference USA.
  • Missonova, L. (2010). The emergence of Uil'ta writing in the 21st century (problems of the ethno-social life of the languages of small peoples). Etnograficheskoe Obozrenie, 1100-115.
  • Janhunen, J. (2014). On the ethnonyms Orok and Uryangkhai. Studia Etymologica Cracoviensia, (19), 71.
  • Pevnov, A. M. (2009, March). On Some Features of Nivkh and Uilta (in Connection with Prospects of Russian-Japanese Collaboration). In サハリンの言語世界: 北大文学研究科公開シンポジウム報告書= Linguistic World of Sakhalin: Proceedings of the Symposium, September 6, 2008 (pp. 113–125). 北海道大学大学院文学研究科= Graduate School of Letters, Hokkaido University.
  • Ikegami, J. (1997). Uirutago jiten [A dictionary of the Uilta language spoken on Sakhalin].
  • K.A. Novikova, L.I. Sem. Oroksky yazyk // Yazyki mira: Tunguso-man'chzhurskie yazyki. Moscow, 1997. (Russian)

External links[edit]